AFC TOTTON were left to ponder on what might have been after coming away from Arlesey Town on Saturday with a 2-2 Calor Southern Premier draw.
With Chippenham beaten, victory would have taken the Stags to within seven points of fourth-to-bottom safety – and they so nearly achieved it with the very last attack at the Armadillo Stadium.
Just seconds remained when Luke Roberts scampered to the byline and pulled the ball back into the danger zone. But, agonisingly, Nathaniel Sherborne couldn’t quite make the desired contact from a yard out.
“We had some good chances, but we just couldn’t get the ball across the line,” rued manager Steve Riley.
“The two points we haven’t quite managed to get today would have been massive with Chippenham losing, but it wasn’t to be.
“We weren’t at the races in the first half, but we had the better of the second half and our ’keeper, Steve Mowthorpe’s, not had a great deal to do.
“It just goes to show how far we’ve come that we’re disappointed we didn’t win.”
At 41, Arlesey’s veteran former Fulham and Millwall striker Barry Hayles is around twice the age of the average Totton player, but he can still teach the youngsters a thing or two.
With 12 minutes gone he outmuscled two defenders before firing the Bedfordshire outfit in front.
“It was too easy and it was a kick up the backside for our lads,” said Riley, who only had to wait five minutes for his team to respond.
Having been let off lightly when Lewis Lindsay headed straight at the ’keeper from a free-kick, Arlesey were not so lucky next time round.
Liam Gilbert delivered the set-piece and former Fawley and Eastleigh defender Rob Flooks, pictured below, nodded home to make it 1-1.
Totton’s positive start to the second half was rewarded inside five minutes thanks to some mesmerising play by Roberts.
He embarked on a mazy run from the left, outwitting three defenders and the ’keeper to net a goal worthy of winning any game.
But unfortunately for Totton, it was not to be.
Alex Moth and Harrison Gilkes both had chances to extend the Stags’ lead before some slack defending cost them dear with 20 minutes to go.
Hayles’ strength again came to the fore and he squared the ball for the unmarked Stuart Farrell to slot into an open goal.
“I was disappointed with the way we conceded that equaliser,” admitted Riley.
“The games are running out now and we’re trying to clutch at wins, but while it’s still mathematically possible (to stay up) we will keep trying to do our best and see where we go.”
The Stags travel to mid-table Biggleswade Town tomorrow before hosting shell-shocked play-off chasers Poole Town on Saturday.
Tom Killick’s side are licking their wounds after suffering a shock 3-1 home defeat at the hands of an already relegated Bedford Town side who had lost their previous 19 league games. Having fallen 2-0 down, things slumped from bad to worse for Poole when Dan Cann was sent off for an alleged elbow offence shortly before half-time.
The ten-strong Dolphins responded by forcing an own goal and numbers were evened up when Bedford’s Sam Macrae picked up a second yellow.
But the Dolphins’ misery was complete when Kelvin Osei-Addo struck Bedford’s third in stoppage time.
Bedford’s unlikely victory means Bashley go bottom – despite a sensational fightback at Banbury United.
The Foresters fell three down but hit back for a 3-3 draw thanks to two-goal Jack Odam and a Scott Joyce leveller in added time.